Hannah Burke | Feb.13, 2023
When Fr. Kieron arrived at St.Joseph’s in East Brighton in 2012, he found a parish complacently in maintenance mode. He knew that “if we stayed as we were we would be in terminal decline.”
After reading Evangelii Gaudium, Fr. Kieron decided that “things had to change.” He consulted a small working group within the parish and suggested that “everything we do from now on has to fit the mission.”
But how to start this change? This question led him to Divine Renovation. Through DR he found he had “a tool kit that was answering the questions we were asking.”
Father Kieron celebrating Mass in East Brighton Parish
But the renewal process has not been straightforward. The journey of mission is “energizing but exhausting.” After inheriting a second church (St. John the Baptist) Fr. Kieron discovered that what works in one church wouldn’t necessarily fit the other. Whilst some things were easy to merge across the two churches (such as finance teams and sacramental programmes) other things seem harder to amalgamate in two different and diverse communities.
Eventually, Fr. Kieron decided to form a joint parish leadership team for both churches. This took some time to form and just as this process was getting underway the pandemic hit. Undeterred, the first joint parish leadership team meeting took place on zoom and after some “natural pruning” has been meeting regularly ever since.
Fr. Kieron states that now the leadership team is his “main vehicle for support and decision making.” He is starting to see the fruits of persevering in the journey of renewal. “We have been through kickstart coaching and are seeing more people within the parish stepping up to leadership roles.”
A focus on evangelization through Alpha has brought new parishioners in, as well as transforming existing members of the congregation. Things are now moving forward both in evangelization and social outreach and Fr. Kieron hopes that the parish will continue to move towards cohesion in both mission and vision with the new projects continuing the vision of evangelizing the wider community.
Fr. Kieron notes that the journey of renewal is “a bit scary” and knows that the parish still has a long way to go, but that ultimately, the fruit is worth the labour.
St John the Baptist has recently undergone major redevelopment of its hall as part of a joint social outreach project. East Brighton Parish teamed up with other local organizations and charities to create a community hub and café right next door to the church. The hope is for this space to be used by a wide variety of people across the local area for community events alongside church activities such as Alpha. They also ran a food bank out of the back of the church itself. People who otherwise would never have stepped into a church are “coming into our space and being fed” and parishioners are “literally coming to Mass then feeding those in need directly from Mass.”